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senate Bill S. 612

The Big Water Infrastructure, Drought Relief, and Drinking Water Deal

Argument in favor

This bill will provide much needed resources for communities looking to improve their water infrastructure and ensure safe drinking water for their residents or mitigate the effects of long-term drought.

Nellie's Opinion
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12/08/2016
I prefer safe drinking water for ALL HUMANS
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JaxonEvans's Opinion
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12/08/2016
This bill would be improved by adding protections for the ESA into it.
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K michael's Opinion
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12/07/2016
Some legislation can wait and be improved. This is not one of those issues. Given the current political climate, working on safety and drought measures must start NOW. Problems can be resolved with future legislation.
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Argument opposed

By allowing for increased water pumping to drought-stricken areas of California, this bill ignores the Endangered Species Act by failing to adequately protect endangered fish habitat to help the agriculture industry.

Nina's Opinion
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12/07/2016
Add protection for endangered species and sacred lands and this is fine.
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David's Opinion
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12/07/2016
Our water problems are more broad than addressed by the bill. For example, while it discusses drought and flood management, it looks at them only on a region by region basis. What is needed is a comprehensive program to move floodwater to drought stricken areas. And to give EPA more capability to specify and enforce clean water standards. These are not State decisions; they are national.
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Ian's Opinion
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12/08/2016
Add language to adequately respect the ESA while still providing water to drought stricken areas. We also as a nation (CA in particular) need to rethink water property rights and market design strategies to address fundamental inequalities in how the existing system works.
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bill Progress


  • EnactedDecember 16th, 2016
    The President signed this bill into law
  • The house Passed December 8th, 2016
    Roll Call Vote 360 Yea / 61 Nay
      house Committees
      Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
      Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management
  • The senate Passed May 21st, 2015
    Passed by Voice Vote
      senate Committees
      Committee on Environment and Public Works
    IntroducedFebruary 27th, 2015

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What is Senate Bill S. 612?

Updated December 6, 2016: This bill has been co-opted by the Senate and amended from its original form to serve as the legislative vehicle for an authorization of water infrastructure projects and drought relief. In its original form, it renamed a federal building and courthouse located in Laredo, Texas after George P. Kazen.

Currently, this bill — known as the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act — would offer comprehensive authorization for water infrastructure projects that improve America’s harbors, locks, dams, flood protection, and other infrastructure. It is composed of three titles, one of which is the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) which passed the House in September, while the other two deal with safe drinking water and drought relief.


WRDA

This section would authorize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to carry out projects aimed at improving the nation’s harbors, locks, dams, flood protection, and other water resources infrastructure. It would provide $5 billion in funding for Corps activities which would be offset by de-authorizing $5 billion in funding for projects that had been approved but have since been de-prioritized. (The original version of WRDA contained $170 million for Flint, Michigan and other communities affected by lead-contaminated drinking water. That funding is being included in the forthcoming stopgap spending package.)

It would authorize a variety of navigation, flood risk management, hurricane and storm damage, ecosystem restoration, and recreation or riverline shoreline projects in the following states: Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Assistance for states would be available to go toward water conservation during drought emergencies, flood damage reduction projects, and combined funding for drainage basins, watersheds, or ecosystems that encompass multiple states.


Safe Drinking Water

States and communities would have access to programs to improve their water services and replace lead service lines and other activities to reduce concentrations of lead in drinking water. Assistance would be available for smaller, lower-income communities, tribes and states  for water quality testing to ensure compliance with Safe Drinking Water Act requirements.

A public notification would be required whenever the enforceable requirements for lead in drinking water are exceeded. Public water systems must notify consumers if the lead action level is exceeded in their drinking water system. If a lead action level is exceeded for the 90th percentile of a public water system’s customers and has significant potential for adverse health effects, EPA must quickly notify the public if the state or local drinking water system fails to do so.


Drought Relief

Current or planned water storage and delivery programs that seek to help drought-stricken communities in the West would be expedited by this bill. Additional regulatory flexibility would be granted to allow more water to be captured in existing reservoirs during the winter in California. 

The Depts. of the Interior and Commerce would be required to provide the maximum amount of water to Central Valley Project (CVP) and State Water Project (SWP) contractors by approving operations or temporary projects as quickly as possible in compliance with federal and state laws and regulations. Such operations could include:

  • Keeping the Cross Channel Gates open as much as possible while protecting migrating salmon;

  • Implementing turbidity control to protect Delta smelt;

  • Expanding the window for and expediting review of water transfer requests trhough the Delta;

  • Creating a process for the Governor of California to request implementation of emergency authorities to increase water supplies or address the drought.

Federal agencies would be directed to cooperate with state and local agencies during any consultation or re-consultation on the coordinated operations of the CVP and SWP. The Depts. of the Interior and Commerce would be directed to conduct quarterly meetings with stakeholders such as environmental, agricultural, recreational or commercial fishing, municipal or other regional interests.

During winter storm events, higher pumping rates would be allowed to increase water supplies in the CVP and SWP so long as that action doesn’t create an additional adverse impact on endangered fish species.

The Secretary of the Interior would be directed to use real-time monitoring and the most updated science to make decisions about operations to maximize fish and water supply benefits. Funding would be authorized for improving salmon and steelhead habitat and studying Delta smelt populations and to protect populations of such fish.

Impact

Members of the public in areas with certain levels of lead in the drinking water; people living in drought affected areas; environmental and agricultural interests and other stakeholders; drinking water utilities; states; the EPA; the Depts. of Commerce and Interior.

Cost of Senate Bill S. 612

$581.00 Million
The CBO estimates that enacting this bill would have a net cost of $581 million over the 2017-2026 period.

More Information

In-Depth: House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) announced an agreement to authorize water infrastructure projects, help communities improve drinking water quality and provide drought relief in California and other parts of the West:

“This deal is a no-brainer. This is a big step forward for people who live in the West and are suffering from drought. We finally agreed to the premise that we should store more water before it flows into the ocean.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who will be retiring from the Senate at the end of this Congress, called the drought relief provisions of this bill “outrageous” and threatened to “use every tool at my disposal to stop this last minute poison pill rider.”

There is, however, dissent in the California delegation over this legislation as Boxer’s colleague, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), said that she supports the measure as a better alternative than “even more harmful drought legislation” that could pass next year.



Media:

Summary by Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: lkluft / Creative Commons)

AKA

Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act

Official Title

To provide for improvements to the rivers and harbors of the United States, to provide for the conservation and development of water and related resources, and for other purposes.

    I prefer safe drinking water for ALL HUMANS
    Like (14)
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    Add protection for endangered species and sacred lands and this is fine.
    Like (100)
    Follow
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    Our water problems are more broad than addressed by the bill. For example, while it discusses drought and flood management, it looks at them only on a region by region basis. What is needed is a comprehensive program to move floodwater to drought stricken areas. And to give EPA more capability to specify and enforce clean water standards. These are not State decisions; they are national.
    Like (51)
    Follow
    Share
    Add language to adequately respect the ESA while still providing water to drought stricken areas. We also as a nation (CA in particular) need to rethink water property rights and market design strategies to address fundamental inequalities in how the existing system works.
    Like (23)
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    Share
    "I prefer drinking water for all people" and other similar remarks. First amendment sweetheart, but there are no amendments supporting ignorance of issues. Drain one area of the country and that section becomes endangered. Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Canada, Pennsylvania, New York. These are the places to be drained. Nah! There is no common sense in this. We choose to live, or remain to live in hazardous areas. That is a choice one makes and there is no power to force others to take a knee to provisions of poor choices. Live in a tornado area, expect tornados, live in a hurricane area, expect hurricanes. Benevolent assistance is not denied. Emotionally derived ideologies are not acceptable reasons to drain resources. Doing this is no less legislatively political. As a nation we as a people are being drained by men and women who make up rules and regulations they don't have to live under. but expect us to live under. Precious snowflakes must melt and come to reality.
    Like (15)
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    We need to focus our funds on Flint before we waste them on a project that ignores them Endangered Species Act.
    Like (13)
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    What the fuck? Cornyn took money that was going to be put towards flint and is redirecting it? What an evil prick.
    Like (10)
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    This bill would be improved by adding protections for the ESA into it.
    Like (8)
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    This should be State legislation. The Federal Government has no Constitutional authority to fix/correct state negligence. Of course, California wouldn't stand up to the Feds over a smelt that was native to the San Joaquin Delta causing thousands of agricultural acres into tumble weeds. I April 2015 trawl survey, state Fish and Wildlife scientists caught only one of the pinky-sized, politicized fish with an outsized role in California’s water wars. A UC Davis-run hatchery are filled with thousands of baby smelt — where, for now, they’ll stay, generation after generation because the Delta waters are too brackish. My view-the Delta Smelt have been forced to immigrate and may never be allowed to return home. The fish itself is unremarkable — short-lived, tiny and so translucent it’s almost invisible.
    Like (7)
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    Some legislation can wait and be improved. This is not one of those issues. Given the current political climate, working on safety and drought measures must start NOW. Problems can be resolved with future legislation.
    Like (7)
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    This bill threatens the endangered species act. There has to be a way to help Californians without causing the extinction of native wildlife.
    Like (6)
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    I think there is a need for the improvement of quality and access of clean water, especially in places like Flint. However I think we need to find a way to have clean water while respecting the environment.
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    We must respect the Endangered Species Act first and foremost.
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    Like Barbara Boxer, I don't like the way this bill tries to micro-manage water policies in drought states like California, or the way it runs contrary to the state efforts in California to consider environmental resources factors in the communities affected by water policy. However, given the current political climate in Washington with a new administration that will alter Democratic power in the Senate, it seems wiser from a Californian's perspective to take the money and run. Especially when the more urgent needs of other Americans will be met by it -- particularly those in Flint, MI, who have waited long enough to have their needs appropriately addressed.
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    Stop putting things in pork spending bills that truly don't fix the problems then intend too!!
    Like (4)
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    I rarely, if ever, discourage improved infrastructure or drinking water improvement, but if it is true that this broadly neglects measures that could severely damage the fishing habitat and agriculture industry, we need to revise the bill first. Furthermore, I question the transparency of this bill.
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    More economic thinking about how the ESA has affected our economic system, for better or worse, is a research priority. Economists have not yet estimated the national costs or benefits of the ESA, and no one has even dared to guess, given the complexity of the ESA debate. Furthermore, we need to address a broader question of social order: how we trade secure property rights and protection of endangered species. One person's inalienable right to protect endangered species will need to be balanced against another's inalienable right of self-determination. A better understanding of the economic costs, benefits, trade-offs, and opportunities should fuel a more informative debate over ESA reauthorization.
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    I love the reason the Senator from California gave: I hate this bill but I'm worried the one put forth by the next Congress would be even worse. So she is voting for this one. What a way to run a country😠
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    Let's create a piece of legislation that doesn't actively violate the ESA. We can be smarter, better managers of our water if we use scientific research and expert knowledge instead of impulse decisions.
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    People are more important then animals.
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